Landfill poses a danger

Government has compulsorily acquired land at Gemswick, St. Philip, better known as Rock Hall, a decommissioned landfill, on which over 200 houses have been built by squatters.

This acquisition, says Minister of Housing, Lands and Maintenance, Dr. William Duguid, is the first step towards relocating the families from the old landfill, which is owned by Balmoral Investments Limited. His comments came in the House of Assembly yesterday morning as he explained that after the landfill was decommissioned, persons started to erect houses on the land, which he said is unstable and poses a danger to their health.

“A landfill will give off for many, many years after it is not used as a landfill, a gas called methane and methane has significant health problems associated with it... Methane, Mr. Speaker, can cause things like rapid breathing, increased heart rate, clumsiness, dizziness, decreased vision, euphoria, decreased alertness, loss of memory, weakness, fatigue, emotional responses, nausea, vomiting, fainting, collapse, convulsions, coma and death. And that is just one gas, that a landfill gives off,” he stated.

Gases can cause severe health challenges

The Minister explained that a landfill will also give off hydrogen sulphide and radon, which are both gases that can cause severe health challenges to those who inhale it for extended periods of time. The latter in particular, he said, is linked to certain types of cancers including leukaemia and prostate cancer.

“Even if we assume or consider nothing else, there is absolutely no reason that hundreds of people should be living on top of a landfill,” he maintained.

The Housing, Lands and Maintenance Minister told fellow Members of Parliament that as the landfill was filled with soil and not compacted properly in every area, means that the area is quite unstable and the houses that have been constructed are at risk of collapsing.

“The whole structure themselves are at risk, the foundations are poor – risk to life and limb of the people of that area,” he stated.

Major security threat

Duguid went on to say that the settlement of people on the landfill is also in close proximity to the Grantley Adams International Airport and could pose a major security threat to that facility should a fire occur. Noting that methane is a combustible gas, he said it is a disaster waiting to happen and therefore, he maintained it is a problem that has to be addressed.

“So when we as a Government assessed all of those problems; assessed the problems associated with the radar and the pilots saying that they have difficulty sometimes with their radar coming onto the runway; assessed the risk of if there is an issue with a plane overshooting the runway because it is right at the end of the runway. All of these things coming together, Mr. Speaker, the Government has made an absolute and conscious decision, knowing full well that we have to protect our people, knowing full well that we have to protect our installations, knowing full well that we have a duty and responsibility to keep our people safe – we have no choice but to relocate the people who live on that landfill,” he added.

Minister Duguid said that the Government is committed to making that relocation a reality as a matter of urgency. He made the point while noting that the health costs associated with treating exposure to the dangerous gases from the landfill, or burns, should a fire occur, are avoidable and it is therefore in the best interest of the residents and the country for those people to be relocated. (JRT)

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